Dzeko thorn in Baggies' side as City keep eye on Wembley
Edin Dzeko struck against West Brom for the third time this season as FA Cup finalists Manchester City edged an open contest at the Etihad Stadium.
The Bosnian, whose double at The Hawthorns in October included a last-gasp winner, guided home a volley after 35 minutes of a Barclays Premier League clash lacking in intensity, but not incident.
Both sides spurned numerous chances with City hitting the woodwork twice through Carlos Tevez and James Milner in the first half and Markus Rosenborg doing likewise for West Brom after the break.
The build-up to the game had a distinct lack of edge to it with both teams making a number of changes and fans slow to make their way into the ground.
City, although not mathematically certain of second place, made clear Saturday's date at Wembley was their priority as they fielded a team without captain Vincent Kompany and influential players Yaya Toure, Pablo Zabaleta, Gael Clichy, Sergio Aguero and David Silva.
Romelu Lukaku had three good chances inside the opening six minutes but failed to trouble Joe Hart, shooting and heading at the keeper and dragging another effort wide.
The home side settled and Tevez had City's first attempt after linking well with Samir Nasri and cutting inside but his shot was well off-target.
Lukaku teed up Rosenborg at the other end but he too fired wide. Jack Rodwell had a chance after Boaz Myhill failed to deal with an Aleksandar Kolarov free-kick but shot over from close range.
Kolarov was perhaps lucky to stay on the field after committing an offence of his own when he caught Gabriel Tamas on the side of the head with a high boot.
The Romanian left the field for treatment, later to return bandaged up, while Kolarov escaped with a yellow card from referee Phil Dowd.
City then enjoyed a good spell as Tevez shot over from the edge of the box and Milner slammed a good chance from a dangerous Nasri cross. Rodwell was then inches away from turning a Kolarov corner towards goal and Tevez rattled the crossbar with a powerful drive from the edge of the box.
The opening goal came moments later as Tevez broke away down the right and clipped back a delicate cross for Dzeko. The Bosnian, guilty of a glaring miss at Swansea, watched carefully and guided a well-weighted volley past Myhill.
City maintained the momentum and Rodwell had a shot cleared off the line and another effort deflected wide before Milner drove against the foot of the post.
The break came at a good time for West Brom and they began the second period with renewed vigour.
Rosenborg smashed a free-kick against the bar after and Hart then saved well from Billy Jones' follow-up header.
Hart was in action again soon after, tipping a low effort from James Morrison wide of the post. But City came back into the game.
Nasri slipped past three defenders on a run into the box, but Tevez could not connect with his cross and Rodwell's attempt was blocked. The ball came back to Rodwell but again he was denied as Myhill saved.
Baggies manager Steve Clarke made the controversial decision to send on unpopular striker Peter Odemwingie. Inevitably booed by the visiting support, the striker was unable to make his mark on the game and City collected the points to strengthen their grip on second place.